Fans deserve to know umps’ punishments
On Tuesday night in St. Petersburg, Carl Crawford and Joe Maddon took exception to Bob Davidson's strike zone. The flash point came in the fifth inning.
Jon Lester missed outside with his first pitch to Crawford. Davidson called it a strike. An argument ensued. Crawford and Maddon were tossed.
"If anybody should be getting suspended," Crawford told reporters afterward, "it should be the umpire."
Less than 24 hours later, club-umpire relations turned hostile in Cleveland. Joe West called two balks on Mark Buehrle. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was tossed after the first, Buehrle following the second.
Buehrle hasn't had two balks in a season since 2005.
"He should be suspended," Hawk Harrelson demanded on the WGN telecast, after West ejected Guillen. "That is a flat-out, absolute disgrace to the umpiring profession, what this guy has been doing."
Two days, two calls for the men in charge to be given a timeout.
Now, I didn't attend either game. I don't know every detail of the cases. I don't have access to the Major League Baseball policy that governs how discipline is meted out when the arbiters do wrong.
So, I'm not going to declare that Davidson and West should be sent to the Appy League. Sorry. I don't have all the facts.
But I do know this: In general, when MLB determines that an umpire has erred, the teams and fans affected have the right to know how he is punished.
At the moment, that's not the way it works. And there is no indication that MLB is about to start announcing the fines or suspensions of umpires.
That would be too egalitarian.
Now, it's true that the commissioner's office has considerable latitude when it comes to disciplining umpires. In fact, the men with the chest protectors are chastened "frequently," according to one source.
Some umpires are forced to sit because of poor performance. Just like a slumping slugger.
The big difference is that the fans aren't aware when it's happening with an umpire. Unless you chart the movement of crews with your Cheerios every morning, there's no way to know when a judge is being benched.
Baseball doesn't believe it would help matters to single out umpires who are too belligerent with players or struggle to determine where the outside corner is. I disagree. Tickets are expensive enough. Accountability should come at no charge.
Increased transparency with evaluations and punishments might make the in-game confrontations a little less histrionic. No longer would those arguments serve as the primary means for players and managers to call the performance of an umpire into question before the masses. Grandstanding by all parties would be less fashionable.
Let me be clear: I have great respect for umpires. They have extremely demanding jobs. I'm not arguing that they need to be disciplined more. I just happen to think they should be disciplined publicly, in the same way that managers and players are.
We come to see the best players in the world. We want to know that the umpires are of the same caliber. If the mistakes of an umpire affect your team, you should be able to find out the how and why of how it was handled thereafter.
And while we're at it: Wouldn't it make sense for umpires to be held to the same standard as everyone else when it comes to fine-worthy comments?
In an April interview with the Bergen Record, West referred to the deliberate play of the Red Sox and Yankees as "a disgrace to baseball." There is no evidence that his punishment was any greater than a talking-to.
Well, Guillen offered a couple unprintables when asked about West following Wednesday's game. If Oz is fined — and he probably will be — there are going to be those who wonder whether a double standard is at work.
The worst part about that? We won't know the answer.